I put caps on the paint cups so it is not a pouring activity. Each cup has a brush. Besides the tray and splash guard, other objects are provided for the children to paint. I make sure there are always little bowls or plastic margarine tubs so the children have little mixing containers.
It is definitely a color-mixing activity. My son-in-law is a Peruvian-trained artist. When I told him about the activity, he said it was not a good activity because when you mix all the colors all you get is an ugly brown. It is true that by the end of class each day, the color is not very appealing, but the colors the children come up with along the way are amazing. Take a look.
The color in the bowl below is not so impressive, but look at the child's hand.
As the activity progresses, I keep adding suds(see picture above). Often times the children will ask for suds in their container and then mix in the colors. The suds pumps have been used a lot so they are hard to work for the children. As a consequence, I or another adult spend more time at the sensory table than usual.
The children mix and paint with the brushes.
And they mix it with their hands.
And sometimes a child will use both brushes and hands.
There is something about the characteristics of suds and paint that invite a kind of sensory bliss. Watch the six-second video below and pay special attention at the end as the child exhales.
I would say that sounded like a pretty blissful exhalation.